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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
SOUTHEASTERN LEGAL FOUNDATION, INC. v. LEDBETTER et al.
S90A1575.
FLETCHER, Justice.
Equity. DeKalb Superior Court. Before Judge Castellani.
On April 24, 1990, shortly after his release from Georgia Regional Hospital, James Calvin Brady allegedly shot a number of people in a shopping mall. 1 Thereafter the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution filed this action against the Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources and the Superintendent of Georgia Regional Hospital, 2 seeking access to certain of Brady's mental health records under the Open Records Act, OCGA 50-18-70 et seq. 3 Appellant Southeastern Legal Foundation was permitted to intervene in the lawsuit as a party plaintiff. The trial court denied the request for disclosure, finding that the records sought are exempt from the Open Records Act. We agree with the conclusions of the trial court and affirm.
1. Appellant filed a petition for "access to the mental health records of James Calvin Brady." Appellant later clarified its request to seek those mental health records which directly or indirectly affected Brady's release from custody. We agree with the trial court that the records sought are clinical records within the meaning of OCGA 37-3-1 (2) of the Mental Health Act, 4 as they are records "pertaining to an individual patient['s] . . . progress notes . . . and discharge data. . . ." OCGA 37-3-166 (a) provides that the clinical record maintained for each mental health patient "shall not be a public record and no part of it shall be released. . . ." 5 The Open Records Act, OCGA 50-18-70 (b), does not apply to "state . . . records . . . which by law are prohibited or specifically exempted from being open to inspection by the general public." Therefore, the disclosure provisions of OCGA 50-18-70 (b) do not apply to clinical records as defined by OCGA 37-3-1 (2), and the trial court correctly concluded that the appellant may not have access to the mental health records of James Calvin Brady by way of the Open Records Act.
2. Because of our holding in Division 1, we find it unnecessary to address appellant's remaining arguments.
Notes
1  This case is pending in DeKalb County.
2  Appellee Georgia Psychological Association was permitted to intervene as a party defendant in the case.
3  The Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution are not parties to this appeal.
4  Under OCGA 37-3-1 (2),"Clinical record" means a written record pertaining to an individual patient and shall include all medical records, progress notes, charts, admission and discharge data, and all other information which is recorded by a facility or other entities responsible for a patient's care and treatment under this chapter and which pertains to the patient's hospitalization and treatment. Such other information as may be required by rules and regulations of the board shall also be included.
5  Certain exceptions are enumerated, but none is directly applicable to this case.
Robert L. Barr, Jr., G. Stephen Parker, Robert B. Baker, Jr., for appellant.
Robert L. Barr, Jr., G. Stephen Parker, Robert B. Baker, Jr., for appellant.
DECIDED FEBRUARY 21, 1991.
Thursday May 21 10:16 EDT


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